Premier League Playback: It’s time to change the Transfer Window rules

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As Deadline Day looms, it’s time to have a rethink

With 24 hours to go until the transfer window slams shut for Premier League clubs, a frantic day of scrambling for last minute bargains is expected up until the deadline at 1 p.m. ET on Tuesday, Sept. 1.

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Although there will be plenty of arrivals in the coming hours as windows shut across Europe’s other big leagues earlier, the theme throughout the final week of the window has been players handing in transfer requests as they aim to push through a move to another club. The way the system is set up, that’s their only option and the selling club, who doesn’t want to sell its star players, is then left with an unhappy player who cannot move on. If the selling club do end up selling, they then have to scramble and pay over the odds for a replacement player on Deadline Day. That’s just not the way it should work and the big question remains: should the rules of the transfer window be changed to see it end on the eve of the new PL season each year?

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John Stones, Saido Berahino and Victor Wanyama have all had transfer requests turned down in the past week, as big boys are lurking to snatch top prospects from ambitious, but smaller, teams.

Speaking of Stones, I was present in Roberto Martinez’s press conference following Everton’s 0-0 draw with Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday. He did not lambaste Chelsea for their pursuit of the 21-year-old England international and said they acted within the laws — the Blues have made three bids over the summer with the latest in excess of $60 million but Everton turned it down — but Martinez instead criticized the current system in place.

“In the modern game now there is a lot of talk about bringing players in and new names, a 24-hour channel checking who’s coming in and who’s coming out,” Martinez said. “We [Everton] have got a very strong project where we give young players the chance to play and we develop them. We need to have a long-term ambition to allow that to happen. It is very hard in the modern game to have players like John Stones, Ross Barkley and Romelu Lukaku, young players that are fulfilling huge roles. We want to become a winning team and John Stones is a big part of that.

“As I’ve said all along, there are certain aspects I don’t agree with the transfer window. When the official games have started, I think they disrespect and devalue the competition. This is not right for the fans who support our institutions, our football clubs, and it gets to a point where we need to protect our players. The position that John has been put in is wrong. From a human point of view it shouldn’t be allowed to happen. If you expand and look throughout the dressing rooms up and down the country, you have one or two cases in every single team. It is wrong. It is about time we do something.”

“The authorities should look into it and do something about it,” Martinez continued. “I know it is difficult because you have to have a period where you assemble your squad, and rightly so, but I think the period where the first official game starts, all of that circus should be stopping as well. Chelsea, like any other team, will try to assemble their squad and they will try to do it in their own way like everyone does. Unfortunately, that’s the way it happens in any league in the world. My complaint to the football authorities is that we are putting our youngsters under massive pressure and let’s protect them. I think everyone knows that a footballer is not just a footballer but a human being. They should be a little bit more protected.”

He’s right. Martinez hit the nail on the head. We all love the juicy rumors and the hustle and bustle of hearing about mega-deals taking place on Deadline Day. Trust me, I love it. Those whispers are latched onto by fans, journalists and even club officials and the news is broadcast in papers, on 24-hour sports TV stations and websites across the world. It’s news. It’s exciting and there’s no denying this industry has spiraled out of control, just like the transfer fees, in the past decade. There’s no need to put an end to it, but limiting it would be better for everyone. With Everton taking a stance and turning down the endless riches of Chelsea to keep a young star, their fans showed their appreciation to the owners on Saturday by signing the following song at White Hart Lane.

Like Martinez said, why can’t we adjust the rules and end this window on the eve of the season?

The January transfer window could be shortened too, perhaps to just the opening week of January when the FA Cup takes over in England and clubs who are on a break from PL action could then have a week to add more players or shift on a few more. This would make those days of negotiations and deals even more exhilarating. For now, we will sit back and watch the deals trickle in on the final day of the summer window. When it’s over, we will reflect on how successful this summer has been for each Premier League club. But in the long-term, changes need to be made to make this process fairer and limit the longevity of this seemingly never-ending circus.

Premier League Schedule – Week 4

Result Recap & Highlights
Aston Villa 2-2 S’land Recap and watch here
B’mouth 1-1 Leicester Recap and watch here
Chelsea 1-2 C. Palace Recap and watch here
Liverpool 0-3 West Ham Recap and watch here
Man City 2-0 Watford Recap and watch here
Newcastle 0-1 Arsenal Recap and watch here
Saints 3-0 Norwich Recap and watch here
Stoke 0-1 West Brom Recap and watch here
Swansea 2-1 Man United Recap and watch here
Tottenham 0-0 Everton Recap and watch here

De Bruyne joins as Man City go all in 

One club which will surely not be doing any business on Deadline Day is Manchester City. Manuel Pellegrini’s side have spent big this summer, splashing out over $200 million in transfer fees alone with Raheem Sterling, Nicolas Otamendi and Kevin de Bruyne arriving. Talk about making a statement.

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De Bruyne, 24, is expected to be the final piece of the attacking jigsaw as the Belgian international arrived for a staggering $84 million from Wolfsburg on Sunday. He recorded 20 assists in the Bundesliga last season, the most of any player in Europe’s top five leagues, and alongside fellow new-boy Sterling and the wizard that is David Silva, those three will provide the predatory Sergio Aguero with countless opportunities to score. With City failing to concede a goal in their opening four games of the season and scoring 10 times in four-straight wins to go top of the standings, it’s been a dream start to the season for Pellegrini. It’s been a dream in the transfer market too, even if question marks remain over KDB’s ability to reproduce his exploits from Germany in England’s top-flight. Chelsea let the Belgian flyer leave for $30 million in January 2014 after he failed to impress Jose Mourinho. Know De Bruyne has arrived back in the PL for almost three-times that amount and could be a key factor in grabbing City the title off his old club Chelsea.

For a man worth $84 million, you’d expect to be buying a player with a body the Greek gods of yesteryear (and Cristiano Ronaldo) would be proud of and someone who’d strike fear into the hearts of opposition defenders with a single picture. It may be slightly surprising then to see one of the images City released (above) to announce the signing of De Bruyne, who was having his medical. Talk about unflattering…

Early season trend: Away day success continues

After the opening 40 games of the PL season we have seen 17 wins from away teams. That’s a significant trend, even if some of the bigger teams have been handed somewhat easier games away from home to open up. Especially when you consider there has only been nine victories by home teams throughout the opening four weeks of the new season, that’s 22.5 percent of games have so far been won by the home teams, and looking at the stat below it was even less than that after Saturday’s games.

[ MORE: Full schedule for every PL club

There are many theories for this, but the pressure put on teams at home from their own fans who want their teams to go all-out attack in search of all three points is perhaps the most feasible reason to explain this upsurge in away wins. Opposing teams know this. They sit back, soak up the pressure and many are not perfectly suited to hit teams on the counter-attack.

Take Crystal Palace, for example. They have perfect the art of winning away from him since Alan Pardew arrived as manager last January. In Pardew’s 10 away games as Palace boss, they have won eight of 10 matches, losing just once. On Saturday they beat Chelsea 2-1 at Stamford Bridge (their first victory at their London rivals since 1982 and only the second in their history as a club) and even though they didn’t sit back the entire game, the way they were set up was perfect to win on the road.

It will take a few more matchdays to figure out if this trend of away teams dominating is set to continue, but it certainly seems like home advantage is no longer all its cracked up to be.

Contentious calls mount up

Six red cards were dished out this weekend, and plenty of them were contentious.

Let’s play the role of referee — which I’m not pretending isn’t a very difficult job for one second — and look at all six.

  • Aleksandar Mitrovic (17th minute, Newcastle 0-1 Arsenal) – The Serbian striker has a reputation and has been booked within seconds of coming off the bench in recent games. His high foot onto the shin of Arsenal’s Francis Coquelin didn’t look like anything untoward on first viewing, but it was certainly dangerous and you can understand why referee Andre Marriner sent him off. Good call? Correct.
  • Ibrahim Afellay (25th minute, Stoke City 0-1 West Brom) – After being hacked down by Craig Gardner, Afellay got up angrily. Gardner tapped him in the face, but Afellay then lashed out and lightly tapped Gardner in the face. Referee Michael Oliver showed Afellay a red card, when really both players deserved a yellow and told to calm down. Good call? Incorrect.
  • Charlie Adam (31st minute, Stoke City 0-1 West Brom) – Remarkably Stoke were down to nine-men just six minutes after Afellay was sent off. The Scotsman slid into a challenge with Dawson but as he got up he appeared to tread on his opponents ankle. It looked accidental and Mark Hughes was incensed on the sidelines. Somehow Stoke only lost 1-0 but they can feel hard done by. Good call? Incorrect.
  • Philippe Coutinho (52nd minute, Liverpool 0-3 West Ham) – The diminutive Brazilian doesn’t know how to tackle. We all know that. However, Coutinho slid in to try and stop Dmitri Payet’s skillful turn and with the West Ham already flying right at him, he couldn’t get out of the way. Coutinho got a second yellow but maybe this was a little harsh. Good call? Correct.
  • Mark Noble (78th minute, Liverpool 0-3 West Ham) – Mark Noble lost control of the ball on the edge of the box and he did lunge in on Danny Ings but got the ball and did not touch the man. The whistle had already blown, and this sending off was another that could have been avoided.  Good call? Incorrect.
  • Steven Whittaker (31st minute, Southampton 3-0 Norwich City) – Two silly yellow cards left the referee with no other option. First yellow for putting Matt Targett in a headlock as he attempted a quick throw-in, then he hauled down Dusan Tadic forcefully minutes later. Whittaker put his side in a bad spot and they suffered badly. Good call? Correct.

Chelsea, Liverpool, Man United all fall

It was a weekend of shocks across the Premier League, as the heavyweights tumbled. Hard. In Jose Mourinho’s 100th Premier League home game as Chelsea boss, he suffered just his second PL home defeat to Palace. Chelsea went behind in the second half when Bakary Sako finally punished Chelsea’s defense which was ruthlessly ripped apart by Palace’s pacy wingers, and although Radamel Falcao equalized in the 79th minute for his first Chelsea goal which seemed to have rescued his side a point, Palace’s winner arrived moments later when Joel Ward headed home. It was a demoralizing day for Mourinho, as his side have now made the second worst start to a title defending season in PL history. That will leave “The Special One” with plenty to mull over during the international break…

Elsewhere, Brendan Rodgers’ Liverpool suffered a shock home defeat, their first loss of the season, to West Ham United. The Hammers are another team, like Palace, who have excelled on the road so far this season, winning at both Arsenal and Liverpool but have lost to Leicester City and Bournemouth at home in-between those marquee wins. Try and explain that. The Hammers scored early through Manuel Lanzini, then Dejan Lovren suffered a relapse to hand Mark Noble another. Two red cards muddied the waters, then Diafra Sakho added a clincher late on as Liverpool’s issues at the back reared their ugly head once again.

Then, there’s Manchester United. With slow progress being made under Louis van Gaal, his side once again looked stagnant in attack as Wayne Rooney fired a blank. Despite Juan Mata giving the Red Devils the lead, Swansea hit back through Andre Ayew and Bafetimbi Gomis as Garry Monk’s men continue to kick on and won their third-straight game against United. Gomis becomes the first Swansea player to score in four consecutive games to start the season ( he has four total, while new signing Andre Ayew has three) and the Frenchman’s famous wild panther celebration came out of the locker once again as he tore United apart. Epic.

Swansea beat United away from home in Van Gaal’s opening game as United boss at the start of last season. Another early defeat to the Swans this season begs the question: how much have United really improved under the man known as the “Iron Tulip?” United have seven points from their opening three games, but with matches against Liverpool, Southampton and Arsenal coming up in their next four outings, it could all start to unravel rather soon. Sorting out the David de Gea situation remains the main dilemma at Old Trafford, while French teenager Anthony Martial looks set to join United in a whopping $55 million on Deadline Day. Is LVG panic buying to cover up this mediocre start to the season?

USMNT update: Howard stands out before international return

This week marks the first time in over a year that all four of the Premier League’s U.S. internationals have been called up by Jurgen Klinsmann.

With friendlies against Peru and Brazil coming up over the next 10 days, Tim Howard has returned to the squad following a self-imposed sabbatical, while Geoff Cameron is also called into his first squad since 2014 after his impressive start to the season at center back with Stoke City. Aston Villa’s goalkeeper Brad Guzan and Tottenham’s right back DeAndre Yedlin both made the cut, but it is Howard who is once again making the headlines after his sublime display for Everton as they grabbed a 0-0 draw at Tottenham on Saturday.

His boss Roberto Martinez told ProSoccerTalk after the game at White Hart Lane that Howard is ready to return.

“He is ready. I think sometimes as a player you need a little bit of a mental break more than anything. I think he had a very good season in terms of being at the club and having a bit of a rest. Now he is ready. He is one of those personalities that they need to be the number one for the USA and needs to be the number one for Everton. I think he’s got some terrific years ahead.”

With Klinsmann saying Guzan is his man for the foreseeable future and Howard must come back into the team as the No. 2 goalkeeper, many would say that’s the correct way to play things with Villa’s goalkeeper not doing much wrong over the past 12 months. However, if Howard keeps pulling off superb saves like he did to deny Harry Kane and Co. on Saturday, it will not be long until he returns as the starter as the huge Confederations Cup playoff against Mexico looms on Oct. 10.

Premier League Playback comes out every week as PST’s Lead Writer and Editor takes an alternative look at all the action from the weekend. Read the full archive, here

Barcelona sign Neto in goalkeeper swap with Valencia

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Barcelona says Brazilian goalkeeper Neto will sign a four-year contract with the Spanish champions.

The transfer completes a swap a day after Barcelona sold Jasper Cillessen to Valencia.

Barcelona says it is paying 26 million euros ($29.5 million) plus possibly another 9 million euros ($10.2 million) in variables for Neto. Valencia paid Barcelona 35 million euros ($40 million) for Cillessen.

Neto will replace Cillessen, who played as a backup for Marc-Andre ter Stegen in the Champions League and the Spanish league and only regularly started in the Copa del Rey.

The 29-year-old Neto helped Valencia qualify for the Champions League with a fourth-place finish for the past two seasons in Spain. He also played in Italy at Juventus as a backup to Gianluigi Buffon and at Fiorentina after starting at Brazilian club Paranaense.

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/apf-Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

USMNT v. Panama: Three things we learned

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It wasn’t always pretty, but the U.S. Men’s National Team eked out a 1-0 win over Panama in Kansas City, Kan. on Wednesday night to win its group. Jozy Altidore scored the game’s only goal in stunning fashion, finishing an overhead kick to put Panama away and set up a quarterfinal bout with Curacao on Sunday evening.

Here are three of the biggest takeaways from Wednesday’s win:

[READ: All the latest USMNT news here]


Jozy Altidore is still the best we’ve got

Many U.S. Men’s National Team fans have called for the forced retirements of Altidore and Michael Bradley, among many others, after the debacle that was the last World Cup cycle.

Until tonight, Altidore wasn’t in the USMNT picture, in part due to Dave Sarachan using younger players and Altidore continuing to suffer a series of muscle injuries since October 2017. And yet, if tonight’s game showed anything in Altidore’s 83 minutes on the pitch, it’s that he’s still the best option for the USMNT up top. While Gregg Berhalter clearly prefers Gyasi Zardes right now based on their previous work history together in Columbus, Zardes doesn’t have the strength or skill that Altidore does. It’s hard to imagine Zardes executing an overhead kick and it going in as sweetly as Altidore did.

What does this mean going forward? Regardless of if Zardes starts the rest of the way, Berhalter knows that he has Altidore always around who can give the U.S. a goal, especially on home soil and when fit. But it also lays the marker down for Zardes, Tim Weah, Josh Sargent and the other up and coming strikers that this is the level they need to meet, and beat, if they want to break into the starting lineup under Berhalter.

There’s speed to burn on the wings

It may not have had a huge impact on Wednesday, but in bringing Tyler Boyd and Christian Pulisic off the bench, Berhalter showed exactly why he’s brought so many speedy skill players along the wings.

While Jordan Morris and Jonathan Lewis couldn’t figure out the final pass or final touch in the box to score a goal, just their presence for 65-70 minutes tired out the backline, and the introductions of Pulisic and Boyd could have really unlocked the Panama defense. While it didn’t totally work on Wednesday, it could in the later stages of the tournament, especially in a potential rematch with either Panama or Jamaica in the semifinals and Mexico in the finals.

With Lewis and Morris likely available off the bench, that adds a new piece opponents have to worry about, both in terms of speed and dribbling ability.

Few impressed in a chance to earn a starting spot

It’s been nearly two years since the debacle in Trinidad and Tobago, and yet aside from maybe Matt Miazga or Nick Lima, there have been very few players who have done much to impress and prove they’re better than the previous cycle’s players. That continued on Wednesday with an MLS-heavy lineup. Wil Trapp, a midfielder with so much promise a few years ago, appears to have stalled. He had multiple turnovers and certainly didn’t look as sharp as Michael Bradley.

While Lewis and Morris have plenty of pace, their final pass was woeful and they didn’t do themselves any favors. Djordje Mihailovic was never going to push Pulisic out of the starting lineup, but Mihailovic didn’t exactly do enough to say that he should be the first man off the bench either, or to push Pulisic into a wing role with Mihailovic in the middle.

Aside from Matt Miazga and Omar Gonzalez in the middle, along with Altidore up top, no one in the lineup really did enough through the first 65 minutes to warrant another start in the tournament. It’s yet another disappointment as young players get chance after chance to prove they belong as starters, only to waste the opportunity, enabling the veterans to keep their role. More players need to keep pushing for those spots, whether through club form or national team performances. Otherwise, we’ll end up in the same situation as before.

 

USMNT remains perfect, tops Panama to win group (video)

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In his first start since the U.S. Men’s National Team’s infamous defeat to Trinidad and Tobago, Jozy Altidore showcased his strength, speed and technical ability to help lead the U.S. to victory.

Altidore’s outstanding bicycle kick goal proved to be the difference in a sometimes dour game as the USMNT topped Panama, 1-0, Wednesday evening at Children’s Mercy Park in Kansas City, Kan. The win kept the U.S. perfect through the Gold Cup group stage with no goals allowed, and it has somewhat erased the memory of the USMNT’s horrible run-up to the tournament, with defeats to Jamaica and Venezuela now firmly in the rear-view mirror.

[MUST-SEE GOAL: Jozy Altidore]

With the win, both teams head to Philadelphia for the quarterfinals this Sunday. Panama plays the undercard matchup against Jamaica while the USMNT faces Curacao.

Coming off two wins to open the Gold Cup, Berhalter decided to use a completely changed starting lineup, featuring ten players from MLS teams along with Chelsea loanee Matt Miazga. Although there was some familiarity of the players on the field, it was at times a very poor match, with the USMNT struggling badly in the final third and even turning the ball over at midfield or leading the attack.

Despite winning the possession battle, 62-38, the USMNT didn’t do much with it. Jordan Morris and Jonathan Lewis, both of whom were subbed out, struggled on their crosses after beating a defender. The pair provided energy and hard running defensively but it didn’t lead to many chances. Altidore had the best of the first half when he was played into the box, but his strike from the right just went wide of the net.

In the 65th minute, Berhalter tried to inject some life in the game with the introduction of Christian Pulisic. It turned out a goal could come just after, but without the intervention of Pulisic.

Djordje Mihailovic drilled the corner kick to the far post where it was met by the head of Matt Miazga who sent it back towards goal. A missed clearance from Panama popped the ball up in the air above the back post, allowing Altidore the time he needed to lift off the ground and bicycle kick it in for the game’s only goal.

Berhalter later brought on both Tyler Boyd and Gyasi Zardes off the bench to try and score an insurance goal, but Panama’s defense held strong and the U.S. failed to threaten the rest of the way. However, the U.S. backline kept a third-consecutive clean sheet and key players such as Michael Bradley got the entire game off to rest before likely returning to the lineup this weekend.

 

 

Must-See Goal: Jozy Altidore puts USMNT in front with Bicycle Kick

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Jozy Altidore put his stamp on the game and gave U.S. Men’s National Team coach Gregg Berhalter more to speak about with one fell swing.

Altidore finished off a corner kick in spectacular fashion, executing a perfect bicycle kick to put the USMNT up 1-0 in the 66th minute. The goal came one minute after the entrance of Christian Pulisic, which perhaps was on the mind of the Panama defense.

It was Altidore’s second-straight game vs. Panama with a goal. His last two were in October 2017, when the U.S. pummeled Panama, 4-0. Of course, a few days later, a tired USMNT failed to win at Trinidad and Tobago.